“My neck and shoulders are burning and my hands are getting numb at work. What is going on and what can I do?”
“My back is killing me. What am I doing wrong?”
People come to my ofﬁce every day with questions like these, especially if they spend their days working in front of a computer. Many of these people are suffering from what I like to call “computeritis” – inﬂammation/irritation from the computer! There is no single correct posture or arrangement of components that will ﬁt everyone. Keep in mind that we were not designed to sit at a computer for eight to 12 hours per day. There are, however, basic design goals that everyone should consider. But first…
What is Ergonomics?
Ergonomics is the interdisciplinary study of individuals and their physical relationship with the environment in which they work. If the ergonomics of your work computing station are not designed to meet your specific needs, you will experience pain and discomfort. It may not be possible to change the type of work you do but it is definitely possible to reduce the negative impact this un-natural setting can have on your body and your health. The following tips will help you work, ergonomically.
Ergonomic Tips for the Workplace
Here are some things that you can do to personalize your computer workstation and minimize problems caused by one that is not ergonomically designed:
1) Set-up Your Chair
This is perhaps the most important part of designing an ergonomic workstation. The ofﬁce chair should adapt to whoever uses it, not vice versa. The height, lumbar area (for lower back), armrests and depth should all be adjustable. The seat should also be ﬁrm but comfortable; the chair should have strong, sturdy wheels that allow your body to remain stable while moving around. As an option, you can always use an exercise ball as your ofﬁce chair!
- Modify your seat height so your feet rest ﬂat on the ﬂoor;
- Adjust the height of your seat’s backrest so the lumbar support sits in the small of your lower back;
- Ensure your shoulders are in line with your hips when sitting;
- Make sure the seat depth doesn’t put pressure behind your knees when sitting against the backrest;
- Check that your armrest is adjusted so your shoulders are resting comfortably;
- Get up often!!
2) Adjust Your Posture
One of the easiest ways to make sure that you are sitting properly is to follow the 90-degree rule!
- Your knees should be at a 90-degree angle, with thighs parallel to the ﬂoor and lower legs perpendicular;
- Your feet should rest ﬂat on the ﬂoor and if they don’t, ensure they’re supported by a stable footrest;
- Your arms should be at a 90-degree angle parallel to the ﬂoor, if your armrest is too high or too low your shoulders will feel strained;
- Keep your upper arms and elbows close to your body;
- Your wrists and hands should be straight, the palm-rest should only be used between typing periods;
- Your neck should be in a neutral position or 15-degrees downward.
3) Exercise Tips
- Perform neck, arm and lower back stretches every hour – program your computer for reminders. Computer applications can be found online for stretching purposes;
- Incorporate ball/core exercises to improve your overall musculature and engage your stabilizing (abdominal) muscles;
- Perform aerobic exercises to help maintain a better energy level and compensate for a sedentary job;
- Perform regular strength-training exercises to ensure that your musculature is kept strong and balanced and can respond to the muscular demands of a time-lengthy position.
4) Additional Tips
- If you are right-handed, consider switching to a left-handed keyboard. These have the number keypad on the left side, which allows you to better center your alpha keys and bring your mouse closer to center. If left-handed, switch to right-handed keyboard;
- Don’t pound on the keyboard, use a light touch when typing;
- Take breaks from typing, varying your activities as much as you can;
- If you have an RSI, try to eliminate unnecessary computer usage;
- Evaluate other activities that you do that may be contributing to your RSI;
- Always pay attention to your body’s complaints – it’s telling you something;
- Kids are at risk for RSIs too, so monitor their computer use. If they don’t have their own computer, make sure to modify the family work station accordingly.
5) Get Adjusted
Wait a minute… What do ergonomics have to do with chiropractic?! Let’s look at carpal tunnel syndrome: a computer-usage problem. The nerves of the wrist begin in the neck and travel all the way down to the arm, wrist and fingers. Poor computer ergonomics cause neck strain, which impinges these traveling nerves, and carpal tunnel can result. How do you know if the spine is involved? A chiropractor will make that determination, and will teach you how to improve your ergonomics! Chiropractors help correct the cause, without drugs or surgery, so you can experience lasting relief and live the life you want.
Are you, or someone you know suffering from work related pain? Book an appointment for a chiropractic evaluation today. We will locate and correct your subluxations so that you can work pain-free again!
Wellness on the Go by Dr Nathalie Beauchamp